QRP M2

That`s what I got 🙂

Two FlexRadio 1500s both of which are ripping up the bands here at VE3HG.

The story of how I ended up owning two QRP FlexRadio 1500 is a little weird but to quote Bill Shakespeare “all`s well that ends well“.

What happened was during the Oct. 27 CQ WW DX contest my 22-amp switching power supply reacted badly to a shorted plug and took itself out with a big bang. I swapped out the power supply and went back to contesting only to find my FlexRadio 1500 was having issues switching the transmitter. I tried a couple of different mics and the same problem kept cropping up. I`d be running just fine and then no push-to-talk. Strange.DSCF2057

I took both the Flex 1500 and the power supply to RadioWorld here in Toronto which is the authorized repair shop for Flex and was quite dismayed to get the call a few days later saying that the Flex 1500 and power supply were beyond repair.

I told Jeff at RadioWorld that if that was the case they could dispose of both units. I was told I needed to come in and sign off on the disposal and pay the $160 ($80 an hour) for the repair estimate. Talk about adding insult to injury but it`s not Radioworld`s problem that both of my units were beyond repair.

I posted about this situation on this blog back in November and within hours I had an email from a guy offering to buy the power supply for parts (Harry VA3EC is currently working on the power supply but an initial fix failed so we`re not all that hopeful.). Based on this email when I went into Radioworld I asked for both pieces of equipment to be return.

Radioworld has got a pretty good deal on waiving the repair estimate costs if you buy a new radio from them so based on that information and on the tech`s report that my FlexRadio 1500 wasn`t working and not worth repairing I went home with the broken Flex 1500 and a new FlexRadio 1500.

The new FlexRadio 1500 worked just fine and I thought despite what I heard from Radioworld maybe the receiver on the old 1500 might still be functional and I could use it to monitor spots during contests.

Imagine my surprise when I fired up the old 1500 and it seemed to work just fine on receive and transmit. Of course I called Radioworld and they said they had been able to reproduce the push-to-talk failure and according to FlexRadio the 1500 would cost more to repair than replace.

Of course that`s easy to say when the guy paying out for the replacing is the customer and I wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on.

So somewhat mystified I emailed FlexRadio and asked if they would examine the radio and tell me what they could determine. They agreed and the radio was sent to them.

Well it`s been two months now and the new Flex 1500 (especially with the new software upgrade that came a few weeks ago) is working better than ever and better than any radio I`ve ever owned!

They`ve done something to the mysterious but super effective AGC-T control (which operates somewhat like an RF control but better) and now I can get signals to pop out of the background noise and sound like an FM broadcast station.

But back to my issue today, thanks to Canada Post, I`ve got my old Flex 1500 back with a letter of explanation from Greg Jurrens, vice-president of Flex`s sales and marketing.

According to Greg the 1500 arrived and appeared to be working just fine!

But the FlexRadio guys didn`t stop there. They put it on the bench and after some extensive testing discovered a marginal relay in the 12 – 10 meter filter loop so they replaced it along with the PA transistor. Now this had been a previous documented issue with this rig and wasn`t related to the failure of the push-to-talk circuit so perhaps Greg is a little confused but the good news is Flex repair didn`t stop there either.

Again more extensive testing failed to find anything else wrong so last week the rig was put on the K5FRS WSPR beacon where a very rare random intermittent audio dropout was discovered and repairs were made and according to Flex the 1500 is very stable now and actually hears better as the radio was decoding the WSPRéWSJT signals -26db below the environmental noise floor. Cool.

Due to the weirdness of the faults and the time involved to find them, FlexRadio ate the repair costs. Bless you FlexRadio and thanks for the early Christmas present. I won`t forget this 🙂

I`ll be testing out the old FlexRadio 1500 here to ensure that all is well and then it`s decision time.

Do I keep both 1500s or do I sell one and save up my pennies and go visit RadioWorld and pick up a new Flex 3000 so I can switch between QRP and QRO using the same accessories and setup.

So the bottom line:

Despite this unique weird issue I love my software defined FlexRadios 🙂 Both of them are super radios and at $650 new absolutely run circles around most other radios including the high-price contest-quality big-box radios.

Pair them up with the amazing FlexKnob and you`ve got an unbeatable combination.

BTW I`ve been asked to do a talk on using software defined radios in the contesting environment at the annual winter gathering of Contest Club Ontario. CCO is one of the largest and most active contest clubs in the world and I am a proud member as I hold the club`s sCCOre Award No. 34.

If you`re interested in contesting consider joining this great group of highly skilled and competitive operators.

Of course the FlexRadio 1500 will figure prominently in the presentation as many contesters have yet to buy into SDR for contesting let alone SDR QRP equipment but contest after contest not only do I prove it can be done but it can be done well.

Who knows? Maybe I`ll be selling a Flex 1500 at a great price at the meeting in February!

 

Casting Pearls

When I was serving our Amateur Radio community as the vice president of public relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada I proposed a one-on-one type membership campaign. (I know I said I was done with RAC and its follies but ….)

One-on-one campaigns are personal and highly effective ways to rapidly increase an organization’s membership.

The way it works is the executive, leading by example, each recruit one other Amateur Radio operator (or more) they know personally to join the organization. By doing so, RAC could easily double or even triple its membership almost overnight. Any executive member who setup a RAC booth at a Ham Radio flea market could easily recruit a half a dozen new members just by showing up and asking passing folks to join.

Regrettably and now from hindsight predictably the campaign went nowhere.

So was the campaign concept a mistake?

Well it sure was with the gang at RAC but it’s a hit with another group.

The International President of Toastmasters International, another group I’ve belonged to for almost 20 years, but one which is exceptionally successful just launched its own campaign called the “1+1 Campaign”.

I got the email notice just a minute ago and I bet you this campaign will be a huge hit.

Toastmasters International has over 260,000 members in 113 countries who meet weekly at one of the 12,800 member clubs.

Oh yes, they change up their leaders on an annual basis and provide training for each position at the club, area, division, district and international levels. At our club there were multiple members who put their names forward to run for executive office.

At RAC the last bunch of “leaders” were all acclaimed. You can draw your own conclusions. Toastmaster clubs can be found in communities large and small across Canada.